Philadelphia Film Fest 2022: BROTHER AND SISTER A Melodramatic Mess

Brother and SisterTake it from someone with four brothers, maintaining good relations with siblings can sometimes be a tough thing to do. Brought together by blood and upbringing, you may sometimes find yourself as an adult spending time with people you may not share many common interests or outlooks. Director Arnaud Desplechin’s Brother And Sister takes a look at that dynamic in the form of two siblings who have been estranged for a majority of their adult life.

Alice (Marion Cotillard) and Louis (Melvil Poupaud) are the titular sister and brother who have not seen nor spoken to each other in twenty years. Although they seemed to have a normal upbringing, along with third and youngest sibling Fidele, Alice one day just told Louis that she hated them and they parted ways. Family members and friends would go out off their way to accommodate the two not wanting to see each other, and not even the tragic death of Louis’s five-year-old child can bring them together. Alice continues to live in the city while Louis has moved to a remote mountainside cabin with his wife. So when their parents are in the hospital following a car accident, they both rush to be by their sides, though at different times coordinated by Fidele. Slowly, the two begin to examine what led to such a state of affairs and whether they should just bury the hatchet before the one thing that connects them – their parents – leave this world.

Brother And Sister is a film that straddles the line between melodramatic and overdramatic, often stumbling backwards over that line. The emotions at play are sometimes played too broadly, almost cartoonishly so. The heightened emotions are portrayed with screaming and wailing, fists being clasped to foreheads and more. Tempers flare without warning and decisions seem more for purposes of plot than motivated by character.

Thematically, the seems to want to explore the question as to whether one has any responsibility towards adult family members just because they happen to share genetic information, if nothing else. It is certainly an intriguing idea, but one the film doesn’t establish a solid foundation for, despite a number of flashbacks to their relationship before the split. We are shown that Alice just one day told Louis that she hates him, but never really why. Was she jealous that he was finally getting some notoriety as a writer? Would Alice concerned that his fame would somehow eclipse her own? Or was it just a build up of small things, where two people’s personalities and chemistries just don’t mix?

There’s a chunk of the movie where this ultimately unanswered question hangs over both characters, and the way that each one vehemently tries to avoid contact with the other, one could be forgiven for thinking that there was a darker, more sinister reason. I don’t think there really is though. They could have just grown apart as people. Desplechin could have left it vague on purpose. But the ambiguity is nonetheless frustrating and makes it hard to connect to the drama unfolding.

Brother And Sister 2022

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About Rich Drees 7021 Articles
A film fan since he first saw that Rebel Blockade Runner fleeing the massive Imperial Star Destroyer at the tender age of 8 and a veteran freelance journalist with twenty-five years experience writing about film and pop culture. He is a member of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle.
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